2005 - Volume #29, Issue #4, Page #40[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Low-Labor Way To Make Feed, Hay
Overstreet uses a modified MC Matthews flail chopper, which was originally designed to cut green chop and blow it into a trailing wagon. It's equipped with flail blades that would normally not only cut the crop but also create a vacuum. A blower would then deliver the material into a trailing wagon.
However, Overstreet uses the machine strictly as a vacuum-blower. A conventional mower is used to cut the crop, which is then raked out evenly across the field for drying. Once the material is dry, he uses the flail chopper to vacuum the crop material and blow it into a home-built, weather-proof wagon that doubles as a feeder. A pair of squirrel cage fans, one on each side of the chopper's deflector chute, help in completely filling and packing the wagon.
The wagon is built on an old house trailer frame and has plywood sides and a metal roof. It measures 20 ft. long by 12 ft. high. There's a hinged, 2-ft. high metal lid on each side of the wagon at the bottom. To feed his livestock, Overstreet tows the wagon to the feeding site. Then he manually lifts the lids so the cattle can self-feed from the wagon. There's no further handling of the crop.
A hydraulic-operated, automatic ball hitch on back of the harvester allows easy wagon hook-up either by a tractor or pickup.
"It's a fast, easy system to use. Because the wagon is weather-proof, hay can remain inside the wagon for up to a year. And I only have to handle the crop once," says Overstreet. "I've been using this system for about 10 years and use a total of 10 home-built wagons. Generally I open two or three wagons at a time so cows don't crowd in too much. The wagons store enough feed to last my cattle all winter long. Each wagon holds about eight tons of feed. Cattle are able to reach in far enough that they clean up 99 percent of the feed. There's very little wasted feed. Some of my pastures are more than 20 miles apart so I often use a pickup to tow the wagons down the road. With the automatic hook-up, I never have to get off the tractor or pickup to hook up or disconnect the wagon.
"I use it with perennial peanuts, a premium quality hay that's grown along the Gulf Coast. Cattle love this feed, but it has a lot of leaves that get easily separated from the plant stem. The flail chopper's vacuum action picks up any separated leaves that would otherwise be lost. I also use it with rye grass. The wagon has an expanded metal floor which allows air to circulate up through the hay and keep it dry.
"I had been putting hay up in small square bales and, later on, round bales. But square bales required a lot of labor, and round bales had to be stored inside a barn to keep them from rotting."
Years ago, the Matthews flail chopper was used by farmers to green chop their hay, says Overstreet. "However, you don't see too many on farms any more. They're still used in the sod industry to mow grass off sod before it's harvested."
The flail chopper is only 5 ft. wide. "New Holland makes a flail chopper that's 8 ft. wide, which would work better because I could load a wagon faster," he says. "There's only a 4 or 5-in. high opening on front of the flail chopper so I can't pick the crop up in a windrow or it would bunch up."
Overstreet says the two squirrel cage blowers together put out about 800 cu. ft. per min. "I used these fans because I was able to get them cheap. It would probably work better to have a single, bigger fan with more blowing power.
He mounted a wooden nose cone on front of the wagon to keep feed from blowing away when turning at the end of the field. The cone also helps to keep rain out of the wagon.
He says he's working on developing an automatic lifting system for the wagon lids.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Troy Overstreet, P.O. Box 280, Sneads, Fla. 3246
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